Climate Change Conference COP23 Friday final daily wrap up

By Claire-Marie Pepper, CQUniversity Australia Scholar

Well, what a week it has been in Bonn. It is sad to think this is the last day of the COP23 conference for 2017 and the end of our wonderful experience. As it was the last day of the event I wanted to make the most of the events and negotiations still available. 

To start off my morning I visited the Fiji pavilion. There was a stand where you could put on a virtual reality headset. I entered the virtual reality world and was transported instantly to beautiful Fiji. Looking around me, I learnt about sugarcane farming on the island and the challenges small farm holders face. The virtual reality world was a strange experience that captivated my attention as it was my first time trying this type of technology. It also was an effective way to engage people like myself that have never been to Fiji and get an insight into the daily lives of Fijians at the conference despite being very far away from Bonn. 

Next, I decided to attend a side event about the German Government’s renewable energy targets and how they are going to achieve them. The event was structured around different stakeholders from different regions in Germany, leaders from small and large cities so an overall perspective could be gained. With ambition targets of 100% renewable by 2050 it was already exciting but while the discussion was taking place an artist was drawing what was being spoken about. It was a concept I had not witness before and was fascinating to see the concentration and passion displayed from the artist.

Next, my fellow delegates and I participated in a stakeholder event with Australian DFAT negotiation team to give us a final update on COP23. It was good to hear Australia’s perspective about the emission targets, the conferences overall success and their positivity in the progress that has been made.

After the informative meeting, we met with the second in charge of Australia's negotiation team, Assistant Secretary, Ms Andrea Faulkner, as well as Directors Marco Silvio and Matthew Stuchbery. They gave us a more detailed insight into how the conference had proceeded. We appreciated Ms Faulker's and the Directors time and were inspired by their advice and knowledge. 

I then participated in a side event called; “What you eat matters: climate change, food security and public health” which took place at the Japan pavilion. Three specialists in each field presented and then explained the cohesion between the three themes and how each can affect each other. It was interesting to learn about the interconnections between emissions, food security/ food production and nutrition and how simple measures from the consumer end can alter all effects.

We all then hastily walked to the Bula zone for our next and final meeting. We met with the amazing Thom Woodroofe, the founder of Global Voices. He is now a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford as well as being a Marshall Island senior negotiator. He is a really inspirational and an entrepreneurial person who is able to create and make opportunities that wouldn't normally exist. Meeting Thom was a really great way to finish off an excellent week in Bonn at the COP23 conference for 2017. 

We all no doubt have walked away with exceptional knowledge, growth and experiences that have inspired us all to go forth into the world, take the opportunities provided and channel our passions to make a difference. It has been a fantastic opportunity that I am very grateful for. 

The delegates and GV staff with members of Australia's negotiation team, Assistant Secretary Andrea Faulkner, with Directors Marco Silvio and Matthew Stuchbery.

The delegates and GV staff with members of Australia's negotiation team, Assistant Secretary Andrea Faulkner, with Directors Marco Silvio and Matthew Stuchbery.

Climate Change Conference COP23 Thursday daily wrap up

By Rhiannon Foster, Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs Scholar

Thursday 16th November was the fourth day of the Global Voices 2017 delegation at COP23. The day had several themes, including Education Day and Sustainable Energy Day. As my policy paper explored implications of behavioural research on climate change communications and behaviour change, I chose to follow several of the major events for Education Day. Youth engagement was also an important theme that intertwined with education. 

I attended the YOUNGO Daily Meeting at 9am, along with several other Global Voices scholars. This set the tone of collaboration and coordination between a wide variety of NGO’s and action groups for the day. The meeting was short and sweet, as several members were speaking at the Uniting for Climate Change: Further Faster Together event that began at 9.30am. 
An inspiring round of presentations espoused the importance of building resilience in young people in communities that are already facing the impacts of climate change but do not understand what climate change is. They highlighted that climate change education is not just a matter of providing facts on climate change, but must also address issues of illiteracy, raise youth involvement beyond activism to the diplomatic level and increase youth involvement in international negotiations. Emphasis was placed on the platform of Action for Climate Empowerment as a vehicle for structuring efforts to improve awareness, advocacy, training and knowledge enhancement to further practical actions on the ground. Collaboration between modern technologies and indigenous knowledge was also noted as key. 

After an essential cappuccino, I then hot-footed to the High-Level Event: Uniting for Climate Education at 11.30am. It was introduced by a 15-year-old girl – woman! – from Los Angeles, California, who described herself as a “girl education advocate” working mostly in Africa due to their great need. She painted a dramatic image of places “around the world, where it’s raining when it’s never rained before, snowing where it’s never snowed before, and floods in places that have never seen them before”. She raised questions of whether weather education used old paradigms or incorporated new weather patterns altered by climate change, and the difficulties of not only teaching this to students, but teaching new curriculum to teachers and purchasing new textbooks, especially in developing countries. 

The Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC followed by stating that “education of all ages is the key to solving climate problems”. Although I wasn’t able to stay much longer, I caught the beginning of a passionate speech by Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco on the importance of the COP Education Days, and on pooling and comparing our approaches to promoting sustainable development to rise to the challenge of climate change in order to enrich them.

Our Global Voices Delegation then came together again to attend a meeting with Ian Lieblich from Climate Policy Watch, who has been working with  Small Island Developing States (SIDS). We discussed his journey from being a Global Voices scholar himself to where he is now, his work on climate finance, and the aims and outcomes of COP23 as an intermediary conference between the Paris Agreement and the finalisation of the rulebook in 2018 in Poland. 

Continuing on my exploration of education, I then attended the UN: Dreaming Big In Education event on the partnerships we need for scaled up mitigation and adaptation. The key points were summarised as recognising the challenges and opportunities that come with climate change education, mainstreaming it throughout education including traditional subjects, and making use of technologies and innovations to enhance it. 

We finished our day at the conference by watching the awarding of the Global Youth Video Competition on Climate Change winners, which were on the “Marrakech, the red city going green” and the importance of mangroves in reducing the impacts of natural disasters by acting as sponges for wild weather. Finally, we met for dinner with other youth delegates from Young European Leadership delegation and a Brazilian delegation, with lots of talking and laughter for a relaxing end to the day. 

I found the education, communication and youth engagement themes repeated again and again throughout the day, as indeed they have been our whole time here. This year seems to represent an important step in including youth, traditional communities and practises, and developing communications to reach both the hearts and minds of the people of the world on climate change action. I am looking forward to our final day here and am very grateful for the opportunity to attend COP23 and be involved in discussing the myriad of intertwining viewpoints I have seen. 

Steph, Rhiannon and Ashley in the Talanoa Space

Steph, Rhiannon and Ashley in the Talanoa Space

Climate Change Conference COP23 Wednesday daily wrap up

By Ashley Fletcher, University of Melbourne Faculty of Science Scholar

It is Wednesday and Day 3 of my Global Voices COP23 climate conference experience. Our first meeting of the day was with Brad Kerin, Company Secretary & Manager, Marketing & Stakeholder Relations from the Carbon Market Institute. The meeting was very informative as Brad thoroughly explained Australia’s current climate and carbon policy including the Emissions Reduction Fund. He also explained how industry is working to reduce its emissions and the interplay between industry and government and the role of the carbon market institute. 

I then attended a session on 'Sharing Australia’s Savanna Fire Management Successes'. It was run by the Australian Government and Australian Aid. The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy spoke and announced a $3.8 million project to export indigenous knowledge on traditional fire management to Botswana. Deputy Permanent Secretary Thabang L. Botshoma from the Botswana government was there alongside Nolan Hunter, Chief Executive Officer of the Kimberley Land Council. The Kimberley Land Council have linked land fire management with the sale of carbon credits and have created jobs for indigenous rangers in the region. This was very pertinent as the conference theme for today was indigenous people and it was fantastic to see indigenous representation from Australia in Bonn and exporting their traditional knowledge to the world. 

After the meeting, we were free to explore our own areas of interest. I headed to the Bula zone with a quick stop via the American Centre for Climate Action, where there are a number of inflatable domes that hold the 'We Are Still In' contingent - a grouping of over 2500 leaders of regions, cities, corporations and faith organisation from the United States, between the Bula and Bonn zone. 

I then travelled to the Bula zone but there was a different atmosphere when I arrived, extra security and media personnel filled the main entrance hall and at that stage, we couldn’t figure out why. There was a meeting on at Bula, the High-Level Segment which we were trying to observe however there was very limited observer seating and we eventually ended up in a spillover room. Once the meeting began we quickly realised why the extra media and security were there, this was the meeting where heads of governments attended. For the next hour or so we saw many heads of government talk about the importance of COP23, the amazing leadership of the Pacific Island nation of Fiji. We saw the leaders from Fiji, France, Gabon, Nauru, Guinea, Niger, Luxenberg on behalf of the EU, Germany and Antonio Guterres who is the current Secretary General of the UN. During the speeches, there were some recurring themes that included: international cooperation, the human face of climate change, the role of private finance, implementation of the Paris agreement, ambition, transparency and Loss and Damage. It was obvious from the multiple speeches that these were the most prominent issues being discussed over the two weeks and we were able to gain a better understanding of the conference. 

After a number of speeches, we headed back to the Bonn zone. There are usually electric shuttle buses available however due to the presence of the heads of government at the conference, certain roads were closed and we had to walk. It was the first time I had the opportunity to travel by foot between the two zones and despite being a bit chilly it was great to see the number of art installations that had been erected between. At Bonn there was an unusual number of people crowding around the entrance, we found out that the French President Emmanuel Macron was coming into the venue. We needed to get to the Fiji pavilion for a meeting, however, the crowd to see Macron kept building and it was a tight fit. At the Fiji pavilion, we met with our own Minister Frydenberg where we discussed Australia’s Blue Carbon initiative and the Savanna Project that the Minister had discussed at the Indigenous Pavilion earlier in the day and the assistance and support Australia has provided to Fiji. It was a fantastic discussion and we all were very appreciative to have met with the Minister considering his extremely busy schedule.

Day three was very interesting and the presence of heads of governments signals COP23 is coming to an end and I am keen to make the most of the time I have left. 

The COP23 delegates and staff meet with Minister Frydenberg at the Fiji Pavilion

The COP23 delegates and staff meet with Minister Frydenberg at the Fiji Pavilion

Climate Change Conference COP23 Tuesday daily wrap up

By Stephanie Matulin, Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs Scholar

On my second day at COP23, the conference theme was gender. I thought it fitting to explore not only how gender issues in climate change are viewed, but how gender influences discussions and negotiations at the COP. This climate conference is also the first year a Small Island Developing States (SIDS) has had the COP presidency, with Fiji focusing on giving space for voices and issues that are not normally represented.
We started the day off bright and early in the Bula zone, meeting with Dina Hestad, current PhD researcher and former Global Voices program manager, who was able to give us some key insights into what to watch out for at the COP. Loss and damage was identified as a hot topic with debates on how to make finance for developing countries more accessible and negotiations more inclusive. 

We then moved on to the Nairobi negotiation room to observe informal consultations on the Green Climate Fund report and see first-hand how details and language in reports are framed and worded and how lengthy the process of agreeing on these changes can be.

Following on with the gender theme for today, I strayed out to the Bonn zone from the Bula zone to catch some important side event discussions about gender, women and climate justice. A highlight was hearing from women in South Africa, Indonesia, Kenya, Ecuador, Gambia and Sudan about small-hold farmers and Indigenous perspectives on what can be done at the international level to support local and Indigenous women’s climate struggles. The speakers felt that it is the duty of polluters to finance for loss and damage in local communities, address root causes such as phasing out of fossil fuels and to have a greater focus on land rights for women and Indigenous peoples. This is on top of efforts to mainstream gender issues through other COP items such as the newly accepted Gender Action Plan (GAP). The speakers were not the only ones sharing their views, with a Philippines community representative questioning the lack of LGBTI focus and sharing their experience of LGBTI peoples struggling to access assistance after a disaster due to lack of recognition of same sex marriage.

After a busy day of back-to-back sessions, the Global Voices delegation attended a cocktail event run by the Carbon Market Institute. It was a fantastic opportunity to network with other Australians at the conference as well as DFAT officials and business representatives. I was particularly interested to hear from market and business-focused perspectives after a day of listening to grassroots views.

Today really highlighted the different ways that people, organisations and states are dealing with climate change, whether it be through direct community actions, the creation of new markets or the international treaty-making process. Overall I felt that continued efforts need to be made to include minority issues and for the COP process to be made more inclusive.

Rhiannon, Steph, Ashley, Claire-Marie and Kelsey at the CMI cocktail event

Rhiannon, Steph, Ashley, Claire-Marie and Kelsey at the CMI cocktail event

Climate Change Conference COP23 Monday daily wrap up

By Will van de Pol, RMIT Scholar

The theme of our first day at COP23 was finance - perhaps not the most exciting topic for some, but fitting that I should be assigned to wrap up the day, as I believe that shifting finance and investment is integral to drive the transition to a low carbon economy.

After registering to receive our official observer passes, Alice, Global Voices Environment and Sustainability Program Coordinator gave us delegates a tour of the massive, dual-zoned conference space. The sheer size was awe-inspiring enough, let alone the bustle and vibrancy of both the Bula negotiating zone and the Bonn zone, which housed country and NGO stalls as well as side events.

We were then left to our own devices, so I headed to a presentation hosted by the UN Environment Program Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), which focused on the risks and opportunities climate change poses to financial institutions.

At midday, we were lucky enough to meet with Rod Campbell from the Australia Institute, whose frank insights into the interrelation between international policy and domestic politics were appreciated, as was his idea to meet outside during a brief period of sunshine.

While I headed off to a couple more climate finance-related events in the afternoon, some of the other delegates were lucky enough to score a chance meeting with the COP23 President, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

In the evening, the whole group met with Martijn Wilder AM, a world-renown climate change lawyer from Baker Mackenzie. Martijn’s legal career and achievements are quite outstanding, and he has also held positions on boards including WWF, ARENA and the CEFC. His advice about sticking to the field you love and being a good and genuine person was important for us to hear from someone who has had as much success as Martijn.

The first day at COP23 proved to be a fascinating experience and I can't wait for the action packed days ahead.


The delegates arrive at the COP23 in Bonn, Germany

The delegates arrive at the COP23 in Bonn, Germany

World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings: Friday Wrap-up

By Sonia Parulekar, UNSW Co-op Program Scholar

Sonia snapped a selfie with IMF Managing Director, Madame Christine Lagarde. 

Sonia snapped a selfie with IMF Managing Director, Madame Christine Lagarde. 

Our final two days in Washington D.C. were a perfect end to an amazing week. We began Friday with the 2017 Annual Meetings Plenary session. The plenary session is the flagship event of the meetings, bringing together participants and official delegations from all participating countries. Held in the striking DAR Constitution Hall, we heard from the President of the World Bank Dr Jim Yong Kim and Managing Director of the IMF Madame Christine Lagarde on the achievements and visions of the World Bank group and the IMF and their visions. It was inspiring to hear the hope encapsulated in their words as they detailed the road ahead to true prosperity and economic equality. In particular, Dr Kim’s proclamation “I believe we can be the first generation in history to end poverty” inspired me to become more engaged in this realisation as the world becomes increasingly globalised and intrinsically connected. 

After the Plenary session, with coffee’s and bagels in hand, we headed to our first seminar ‘The Disaster That Never Happened – Can Resilient Infrastructure Help Save the World?’. This was particularly exciting as Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, was the key note speaker. Branson’s message drove home the urgency of local and global action to plan and build infrastructure that will withstand natural disasters and inevitable environmental and climatic shifts. 

After the seminar we headed to a lunch put on by the WB/IMF and watched the ‘Angklung Performance’, an Indonesian Cultural Show put on in anticipation of the 2018 WB/IMF annual meetings which are to be held in Bali, Indonesia. As our time at the meetings and in Washington D.C. began to wrap up, we spent the afternoon touring the WB/IMF buildings and the city including a visit to the Lincoln and National World War II Memorials.

We ended our day with a group dinner with the New Zealand and Canadian Youth Delegations. The night was spent sharing stories of our time at the meetings, discussing politics, learning what tater tots were (they’re yum!) and most importantly creating global networks with other fantastic young like-minded individuals.

Since our flights back home to Australia were booked for late Saturday afternoon, we made the most of Saturday morning by attending one last World Bank seminar ‘Taking Women-Owned Business to the Next Level’. This was one of my favourite sessions. We heard from three inspiring female entrepreneurs from Myanmar, Jordan and Africa who, in spite of their extremely limited resources and geographical, social and cultural barriers, have gone on to build successful business ventures. Each spoke about their ability to believe in themselves and persevere, allowing them to break free from what traditional societal norms for women dictated and see their visions come to life. The session concluded with a panel discussion involving Dr Jim Yong Kim (President of the WB), Ivanka Trump (Senior Adviser to the President of the USA), Reem Bint Ebrahim Al Hashimy (Minister of State for International Cooperation, United Arab Emirates) and Steven Puig (CEO of Banco BHD).

We had an absolutely incredible time at the World Bank and IMF annual meetings. The opportunity to hear from some of the greatest thinkers, participate in issue defining debates and discuss the topics we’re passionate about on a global scale was phenomenal. We cannot thank Global Voices and each of our respective universities enough for this truly invaluable experience.